I was alone and lonely but I think I was quite used to it now.
I was seventeen years old. Just finished my second year of college and for not getting enough marks in one subject, could not get into the third year of college. The subject in question was English language… barely passed but not good enough. I was scheduled to appear in Compartment Exams after three months and that would be September. Study time was summer with the accompanying grueling heat and discomfort. But if I wanted to go to college – which I did – I had to clear this exam. And to achieve that, I had to study, and study hard.
Now at this stage in my life and with all those years behind me, I can understand why I didn’t make it in that subject.
I was the brightest student in my class. Active participant in all the projects, ever ready to help fellow students, loved to read Shakespeare out loud while others at the first mention of this name would have an Epileptic fit. Whenever we were given an assignment to give our views on some particular piece of literature, I would have a field day. In fact that was my favorite thing and – alas – the reason for my downfall, meaning not getting enough marks in my English Lit paper to get admission in third year of college.
One question in my English lit paper was about a green door (I am sure the color was green). Let me rephrase: there was a short story in my English Lit course about a man and a green door that during the course of his life, he would suddenly see. Why was that? It was not explained in the story. I do not fully remember the whole story now but the question delighted me because it was a simple and easy question. Then I made the mistake. Instead of sticking to the point and just writing down when and where he saw that green door, I strayed in the sense that I started analyzing why he saw those doors like a psychoanalyst would probe and dig and try to go deeper down your psyche. When I reluctantly finished the “answer”, I had used up half of my allotted time. I rushed into the rest of the questions and my answers and obviously didn’t impress the person who corrected my paper. Though, I tell you, I am very proud of my treatment of that particular answer to this day. A psychoanalyst would have been impressed. Alas, the examiner didn’t share my sentiments.
Now, we go back to the beginning.
So lonely and alone, a girl was studying her English Lit course once again in the sweltering heat and humidity of a long summer. I would go in the spare room in our house and study the course with a dejected heart. I had fallen from grace and everybody ignored me. Well that’s how I took it at that time. It could have been something else, like giving me some space to study undisturbed.
My mother had stopped talking to me because she had said how inconvenient this would be for the family. It was not going to be easy to take me to another city to appear in the examination. Naturally I reacted to this comment. What do you expect from a teenager after all? So the argument between a mother and her ‘aflatoon’ child earned the child her mother’s regal wrath, I was the pariah, the social outcast of the family. I was certain my mother hated me. I resigned to this and tried not to cross paths with her.
Confined to my environments, I would sometimes miss meals, or if wanted to eat, I would go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea and toast some bread with it, or bring a banana or an apple to my room to eat later when hungry. This went on for one whole week. Then one night when the rest of the house was asleep and I was so tired of my books and everything that I, spreading my arms on the table, put my head on the open book and started crying, the last thing a very proud, sure of herself teenager would do.
Suddenly I felt a hand on my head that made me sit up and see who it may be. I don’t know who told her or how she found out but there she was standing beside me, stroking my head.
“It is hard, I know it is hard. I never went to a formal school or maybe I did, but it was just a Middle School, but I can imagine, I can think. You are going through a bad time, but it will pass.”
Then she pushed a small bowl full of almonds, on the table. You are not eating properly. How do you think you are going to remember anything if you deprive yourself of nourishment. I do not want to say more because you are an obstinate child, your father’s child. Now go to bed. You can start again tomorrow. She smiled and left the room.
So, she loved me after all. I too smiled and went to my bed.